The Following 2.07 Review: “Sacrifice”

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For all of you out there who have been biting your nails, hoping to see an episode of The Following in which Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston assault a child, wait no more! Christmas has come early! That’s right, “Sacrifice” is so hyper-aware of your weird viewing fetishes that it reaches deep into The Following‘s bag o’ tricks to satisfy your need to see a child – a child – get tied up by the FBI agent and ex-agent after the camera pans away from whatever happens immediately before (God forbid we actually have footage of Ryan striking a kid, because The Following is very careful when towing the line of decency…). I mean, c’mon. What more could anyone want from this series? Nothing. That is the correct answer.

Unfortunately, “Sacrifice” manages to ruin a perfectly good episode of Ryan picking on children by having things in it that are not Ryan picking on children. Case in point: Joe, Mandy and Emma take a trip to cult territory. We’re talking cult, here – not just the kind of following Joe amassed last season. I’m sad to say, though, that it isn’t the cult from the TV series Cult, which – if none of you watched it because you were too busy having lives – was a show about a cult that basically worshiped a TV show called Cult within the fictional world of the actual TV show that was, in fact, called Cult (I’m dead serious). So, another hugely missed opportunity for The Following to do what would have been such an awful crossover that it would have made The Following a thousand times better. Instead, we get awkwardly energized scenes between Not Cult‘s cult leaders and Joe, finishing with the titular sacrifice where Emma is forced against her will to give blood so that the cult can have something to drink (presumably because they don’t believe in water; there’s no evidence to suggest that they do believe in water, so I can have whatever theories I want to have – deal with it). The further Joe strays from Ryan Hardy, the more it’s clear that James Purefoy’s charms are only useful when he’s toying with Kevin Bacon. Thus, until the two reunite later in the season, expect a lot of positive commentary about how interesting Joe’s plotlines are going.

To be fair, Ryan’s side of “Sacrifice” actually has some moments of fun. Max gets caught in this whole The Most Dangerous Game scenario. She does all right for herself, seeing as how she can run a mile in under six minutes (of all the arbitrary lines of dialogue, this one stuck out the most; is the murderer supposed to be impressed by this?). Then Ryan has to mess everything up by, once again, killing someone. Don’t people have to fill out reports when they kill in the line of duty? Aren’t there any kind of regulations regarding shooting people in law enforcement? Isn’t Ryan still not an FBI agent!? I…just…don’t understand…why he keeps killing people…with no consequences…

Whatever. The most awkward moment of “Sacrifice” is, unfortunately, what ought to be its most devastating. Weston shoehorns a mention of his estranged father into a conversation earlier in the episode and, during the episode’s final moments, we see that Lily has had Weston’s father killed because of Weston’s part in shooting her son. It’s another unnecessarily explicit and manipulative scene of violence, but “Sacrifice” also plays it as a hugely weighty moment. But it doesn’t hit at all. It might be because we’ve seen no interaction between Weston and his father. It might be because Weston lost some sympathy by going violently crazy last week. It might be because there’s so much murder in The Following that it has desensitized us. Or it might just be because Weston is bawling in the final scene while Ryan slowly shifts over and pats him on the back, not knowing how to react. Now you know how we feel, Ryan. Now you know.

It’s probably a good idea to keep Lily around a little bit longer as an antagonist, because Joe is so far out of the picture that spending the rest of the season chasing weak leads would alienate the remaining 4.61 million people still watching this (that’s down from the 11.18 million season two premiere). What The Following really needs to do is introduce a new group of people called The Following who worship a TV show called The Following on a fictional version of Fox. Then Joe can call Ryan each week to complain about the actors’ portrayals of their characters shortly, of course, before hunting them down and killing them, thus opening auditions for a new group of actors, including some children that Ryan can pick on. That is an Emmy-winning show right there.

[Photo via Giovanni Rufino/FOX]

Sean Colletti received his MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He writes television criticism for @Sound on Site and at his personal blog, There is nothing on. His current favorite shows are Mad Men, Louie and Parks and Recreation.
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  • MJ

    Priceless review of one of the most tragic tv series to date. I laughed aloud at the 6 minute mile boast as well. Moreover, it’s not just that Joe kills in the name of the law with impunity without writing incident reports. Kills me how those leading the investigation constantly are sitting around lion-sized monitors doing nothing other than periodically chastising/threatening Joe if he goes it alone just one more time…. Even so, I for one, was impressed in this episode that for a show labeled The Following, well into season 2, we actually get to see what a cult actually looks like. Better late than never, I guess. Up to this point, I’ve been wondering exactly are these folks actually following…